Startup: Hello Soda
What is it? Cloud-based data analysis platform
Founders: Paul Shepherd, James Blake,Will Elllis and Ben Allott
According to Hello Soda, traditional data is “a bit rubbish”. When we apply for a loan or credit card, the data that gets dredged up is impersonal to say the least: credit reports, the DVLA database, the electoral roll and the like.
But as James Blake, the Manchester startup’s co-founder, explains, we live in an age where so much more data is available.
“We do everything online now, and we’d gotten away from a real understanding of people and their personalities,” he says. “We have been relying on automated data that didn’t change very often and not utilising all the data out there on social media, Google, eBay etc.”
Using Bayesian Belief Network principles, Hello Soda analyses structured data such as the number of Facebook friends someone has, but also generates predictions from unstructured data like blog posts, tweets and social interactions.
“What we can do is help companies understand something about a person as an individual… such as whether they have been promoted, or if they’ve been on holiday. We call it the fabric of life,” adds Blake, a former head of global sales at Call Credit, the UK’s second largest credit reference agency.
And it’s not just creditworthiness that Hello Soda can help with – there are a range of uses, such as propensity to commit fraud, employee vetting and insurance claimants’ trustworthiness.
Everything, Blake is keen to point out, is consent-based. “All our clients are up front with their consent processes,” he says. “You as the consumer have to give access to your digital footprint, and we don’t give any information about gender, race, political affiliation or similar.”
Currently, Hello Soda has 20 clients – including lenders, insurers and gaming companies – and turns over around £1m annually, “and growing fast”, according to Blake. It has a team of 15 on King Street in Manchester.
Hello Soda took some early investment and Blake admits it is “considering” more fundraising, but is concerned it will take his focus off growing the company. He sees the US as a “massive growth area” – 40% of its business is already based over there – and it will soon be announcing its first Stateside employees.
As for the next 12 months, Blake has three key priorities: “to grow our insurance and consumer sectors, and to set up an office on the West Coast of America.”